Contemplating The Wisdom Tradition


David M. Grossman – USA

Theosophy DG b

There is that known as the Wisdom Tradition. It is to be found in every civilization, usually imbedded in the major religions that are rooted there. But it is also to be discerned in the belief systems of indigenous peoples spread throughout the earth, often the remnants of ancient peoples and civilizations long forgotten and faded out from the general memory. Throughout the world the God or Source idea has shown up, often expressed as a kind of “Animism” or awareness that “all is life” and as H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) so eloquently puts it in the summing up section of The Secret Doctrine,

Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. We men must remember that because we do not perceive any signs — which we can recognize — of consciousness, say, in stones, we have no right to say that no consciousness exists there. There is no such thing as either “dead” or “blind” matter, as there is no “Blind” or “Unconscious” Law. These find no place among the conceptions of Occult philosophy.         

                                                                                                                                                                                          (SD, bk. I, pg. 274) 

Across space and time in all the various civilizations and smaller human outposts indigenous groups often carry a deep sense of responsibility towards the living earth, our home and sustainer,  and act with greater overall reverence for life than our contemporary nation states. They have always had a deep-seated knowledge concerning the environment and how to care for it that our contemporary societies are finally being forced into a painful acknowledgement.  Our main aims are, more often than not, wealth, power and a particular political ideology accented at times by a distorted religious theology or a secular lack of moral discrimination that expresses neither caring responsibility for its citizens or the planet that sustains us.

Granted our collective life is not simple these days with the explosion in world population over the last few centuries and the seemingly uncontrolled hunger for the acquirement of things without much regard for its impact on the whole. As E.F. Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful, Economics As If People Mattered, observes in his book “what were luxuries to our fathers have become necessities for us.” The speed of change in human life on earth in recent centuries has sped up to a dizzying degree and traditions that once had  stabilizing influences in various cultures are now breaking down, causing instability. The ideas of international cooperation and reciprocity are all too often excuses for homogenization and imposition by the more powerful players. Put another way is the question, “Is constant  economic growth actually progress and does it make for a healthier society?

We have become more and more immersed in matter. Are we happier and more content in our lives on the whole? According to the general consensus of psychologists and sociologists the answer in general is a resounding “No.”  Plus there is a clear correlation between the rise in human consumption of resources and the degradation of the life sustaining elements on earth of air, water and food. This is not to ignore the millions of human beings that go to bed hungry every night. The moral paradox is blatant. With all our scientific knowledge and capability in technology how is it that we have shown such unprecedented ignorance in our actions and foresight to come to where we find ourselves in 2023?    

Theosophy presents three main lines of evolution, interwoven and inter blended at every point, spiritual, psychic and physical; We are quite advanced on the mental line as seen through our various scientific explorations and observations  followed by our often amazing and sometimes reckless technological applications and our growing capabilities to manipulate matter.  Whether it be the splitting of the atom or our “spare parts” capabilities doing organ transplants, these actions are unfortunately not fully directed by moral and ethical concerns coming from the spiritual line. We are out of balance with the earth and each other. The result is the present condition of the planet becoming less capable of supporting life due to the human impact on both the physical and spiritual ecosystems. Most blatant of all, these days, are the polarizations within and between the various societies in the world. One group sees imposed order as the solution leading to curtailment of freedom which is a primal human impulse and on the other hand there are those who feel they deserve what they can get without much regard or sense of responsibility toward others or to the future of the planet.

The fact is that  politics, economics and technology offer material solutions to what is essentially a Spiritual Problem. Only by realizing our common spiritual identity will we transcend the fears and animosities that divide us.    

While Theosophy teaches that there is a need in the world for an awareness of our interconnectedness and interdependence (essential oneness); this does not mean an artificial uniformity in the way people express their deepest spiritual inclinations nor the way they live their lives, as long as it does not harm or subjugate others. In fact it is diversity of expression that keeps truth alive and vital. Flowing water remains fresh.  We need to learn to think for ourselves, otherwise we will not have a basis for clear judgement. It is this cultivated awareness that can bring us into contact with that river we call The Wisdom Tradition, sometimes flowing above ground, at other times underground, yet always beckoning us to further expression of our true Self even during the darkest of times.

Although we usually think of the acquirement of knowledge and the advancement of civilizations as a progressive endeavor in terms of the unfolding historical epochs, there is another kind of knowledge that seems to be imbedded in our nature like the flame of self-awareness and shows itself most when the impulses of the wisdom tradition are able to permeate our consciousness (hearts and minds) and break the spell of materialism, and dogmatic belief systems whether religious, scientific or political.

Thus we see from time to time great luminaries appear like Gautama the Buddha and Jesus the Christ who came on the scene as religious reformers to reinvigorate the status quo, crystalized forms of the religions of their day, along with others in various parts of the world at different times illuminating the true path of humanity like Lao Tzu and Confucius in China, Socrates and Plato in Greece, Ammonius Saccas from Alexandria, influential friends of humanity like Hypatia, Rumi, and Francis of Assisi to name but a few. We can all point out bright stars in history that help to electrify the evolutionary grid of humanity. They appear in religion, philosophy, science, as social reformers and in the arts.  That life affirming current with its many different expressions through time we call The Wisdom Tradition. These luminaries help recalibrate the human compass, reminding us there is a grander purpose to life, our lives, than a single incarnation can encompass. They help to expand our sense of who we are and where we are bound. Each of these in their own way are and have been guideposts along the evolutionary path of humanity.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, (the Christos) the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (Book of John, 14:12, King James Bible,)

Everything about us is changing as we grow from infancy through childhood into adulthood; our bodies totally change, our physical and mental powers expand, our ideas about ourselves and life alter, yet through it all we know ourselves to be the same  being, “I am I.” Our radius expands. The energizing Self remains constant. In this sense there is no “identity crisis.”    

Ideas and facts that evade  linear measurement or quantification, radiate out from the inside; they are not harvested through the passage of time from without. They defy garden variety logic,  like the direct knowledge  of our own self-consciousness,  or moral insights that emerge from the inner voice of conscience.  How is it that certain facts can be known without the usual means to discern them? Where does this knowledge come from? Although most of us are enwrapped in karma from the past which demands our attention and responsibility but along with this we come to a point where we see we must transform ourselves by making an inner commitment to seek truth in a more dynamic way than previously. We begin to align ourselves with The Wisdom Tradition. What is that tradition as we each must interface with it for ourselves? It seems to be a kind of alchemical path for transforming our irrational animal instincts and separative based egocentricities into love and compassion, our dualistic world view into a non-dual  vision of mutual responsibility and unity.

In The Collected Writings of HPB we find The Golden Stairs, which you might call instructions  along this way:

Behold the truth before you: a clean life, an open mind, a pure heart, an eager intellect, an unveiled spiritual perception, a brotherliness for one's co-disciple, a readiness to give and receive advice and instruction, a loyal sense of duty to the Teacher, a willing obedience to the behests of TRUTH, once we have placed our confidence in, and believe that Teacher to be in possession of it; a courageous endurance of personal injustice, a brave declaration of principles, a valiant defense of those who are unjustly attacked, and a constant eye to the ideal of human progression and perfection which the secret science depicts—these are the golden stairs up the steps of which the learner may climb to the Temple of Divine Wisdom.

—                                                                                                                                                                   H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings 12:503


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